Monday, April 29, 2013

Section 16: The Genus Majestaticum and Kenosis

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 230:

"In order to make our case for this understanding of kenosis and self-understanding of Christ, we must examine the texts of the New Testament that deal with the subject. We begin with the locus classicus of the doctrine of kenosis, the Christ hymn of Philippians 2. The hymn begins by Paul stating that although Christ was in or possessed the “form of God” he did not “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” or as some (including NRSV) translate it, “something to be exploited.” Gerald Hawthorne has also suggested “ground for grasping,” whereas Peter O’ Brien has suggested “something to be used for his own advantage.” N.T. Wright favors this latter translation and has argued very convincingly that Paul is here contrasting Jesus’ proper and self-giving use of his power to pagan Hellenistic kings. We cannot, of course, enter into the debate concerning the exact translation of the phrase here. Nevertheless, what seems to be clear is that a great many translators and exegetes of merit seem to think that the phrase means that although Christ possessed all the power and glory of divinity, he did not use such glory for himself or for his own advantage. 
Before we enter into a discussion as to how Christ used or did not use such sovereignty, we must first explore the meaning of the phrase “the form of God.” Lutherans have historically understood this to be a reference to the genus majestaticum. In order to see the reason for this interpretation, we turn to Johann Gerhard’s exegesis of the passage which is representative of the larger tradition. First, Gerhard notes, that the hymn describes the action of “Christ Jesus,” that is, the human nature considered in the abstract. He is spoken of as “Christ” in connection to his human nature, in that the name means “anointed,” something that clearly did not occur to the logos asarkos before the Incarnation. We ourselves might add that this is supported by the fact that on the very few occasions that Paul speaks of Christ’s pre-incarnate state, he does not typically speak of the subject “Christ Jesus,” but rather of the “Son” (Rom 8:3; Gal 4:4). Gerhard goes on to point out that the logos asarkos does not possess the “form of God” but rather is God. In that Paul has already indicated that he is talking about the “anointed one” (the human nature in the abstract), who possessed the “form of God” (rather than “was God” as he states in Rom 9:5 ), he seems to be referring to the humanity of Christ in itself. Christ's humanity possesses the "form of God" because it possesses the fullness of divine glory."

Friday, April 26, 2013

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Section 15: Jesus as Priest-King

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 250:

"Jesus is the true king and therefore “Lord of all." For this reason he is capable of laying down his life in a priestly act as “servant of all.” His priestly office (munus sacerdotale) therefore proceeds from his kingly office and depends upon it. As the true Davidic king, Jesus is also the true Melchizedekian high priest (Ps 110) as the New Testament consistently interprets his messianic role. "

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Section 14: The Prophecy of the Fulfillment of Priestly Mediation

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 50:

"Not only does the Old Testament suggest that there is a parallel between the earthly high priest and a heavenly high priest who is the Angel of YHWH/kavod, but it predicts an eschatological fulfillment to priestly mediation. We are told in Numbers 25:13 that God has promised the Levites an eternal priesthood. Nevertheless, the priesthood still is under the Sinaitic covenant and its curses. If so, then the whole of the priesthood’s failure and sinfulness would logically disqualify them to possess a perpetual priesthood as it did with the house of Eli in 1 Samuel. To maintain the promise of eternal priesthood, God must act to purify creation and the make the priesthood function in a final eschatological act. 
Such an implicit eschatological expectation becomes more explicit in the writings of the later prophets. In Malachi 3:3, we are told that God himself will come to purify the sons of Levi. The text also tells us that God himself will come to his Temple to purify it in the form of the Angel of the Lord: "Behold, I send my messenger [or "My Angel"], and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant [or "Angel of the Covenant"] in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts" (Mal 3:1, emphasis added). This connects with the expectation of the return of God to Zion, found in Isaiah 40 and Ezekiel 37-39. In Zechariah 3, we are told that the Angel of YHWH's purification of the high priest (v. 8) prefigures God's eschatological action of redemption: "I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day"(v. 9). 
The descriptions of the actions of the eschatological high priest are scattered throughout the Old Testament in a variety of interconnected texts. As we have already noted, the Servant of YHWH in the later chapters of Isaiah is identified as the new Passover lamb, necessitated by the new exodus. He is, as we have also suggested, identified in chapter 49 and 63 with the Angel of YHWH and the kavod. This identification is deepened by the description of the Angel of YHWH in Isaiah 63:9 as possessing both robes soaked in blood (Isa 63:2) and the role of the divine warrior (v. 1-5), much like Leviticus' portrayal of the high priest. As was previously noted, the Angel of YHWH is also said in v. 9 to be afflicted with the afflictions of the people in order to redeem them. Isaiah then harkens back to the time of the exodus and states that this same Angel (as is clear from the text of the Pentateuch as well) guided and redeemed Israel in the first exodus. He is described as being "his [God's] glorious arm"(v.12). This is identical with the description of the Servant in Isaiah 53:1 as "the arm of the LORD." This wording therefore further identifies the sufferings of the Angel of YHWH and the Servant, and thereby positively demonstrates them to be the same figure. In the same way also atonement leads to a universal Jubilee. We are told that the Servant announces such a Jubilee in Isaiah 61 and that he will justify many in chapter 53."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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Section 13: Christ and His Offices

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 230.

"Jesus is the eternal Word of God (Gen 1, John 1). Just as he once spoke forth creation in the beginning, in midst of history he now speaks forth a new creation in and through his humanity and its temporal activity. Specifically, he does this by recapitulating creation through the exercise of his office as king, priest, and prophet. The significance of these offices is that they represent the original offices and vocations of Adam and Israel. In that the first Adam and later Israel failed to exercise these offices in accordance with God's Word of law and promise, Christ himself must take up the vocation and fulfill it himself. As God's own eternal Word and the second Adam, Jesus Christ is the true minister of the Word and the "Shepherd and Overseer of . . . souls" (1 Pet 2:25). By enacting his vocation, he ends the tyranny of the demonic forces of the old creation by the fulfillment of the judgment of the law and actua

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Section 12: Christ's Fulfillment of the Old Testament

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 60:

"Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament. He is the true mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5). He is the one who finally brought an end to universal exile brought by the fall of our first parents. This theme of exile and return, which we have traced throughout the Old Testament, will be important in our treatment of how the New Testament authors understood Jesus’ atoning work as the final end to the universal exile of creation from its creator God. This would take the form of the return of divine presence, renewal of creation, and fulfillment of the law through eschatological judgment. In order to reverse the state of universal exile, we will observe that Jesus is God's own self-donation and entry into the story of Israel and humanity. As we saw in the previous chapters, God in his faithfulness elected mediators in the Old Testament period in order to fulfill the law and thereby represent himself in faithfulness to Israel. Mediators also served as an embodiment of Israel remaining faithful to him.  Jesus is the true prophet, priest, and king, who fulfills God's own faithfulness by coming in the flesh. As an ultimate fulfillment of his faithfulness, God literally gives himself to Israel by donating his person to them. From within our nature, God finally wins a victory over sin, death, the Devil, and the law, thereby enacting a true and everlasting testament of his love." 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Section 11: Intro to the Book of Revelation

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 70:

"The book of Revelation centers on Jesus Christ as both the author and object of the Church's liturgical activity. By his death and resurrection Jesus Christ has actualized a new creation and determines his bride the Church as a new creation by freeing her from sin, death, and the Devil. He thereby actualizes her as a creature capable of reflecting his glory through a sacrifice of praise. This occurs when humanity is re-created in the Divine Service through Word and sacrament. Nevertheless, as the book of the seven seals reveals, the divine act of redemption has a corresponding act of judgment. By his opening the book of the testament (the book of the seven seals), God in Christ unleashes divine judgment on the dark forces of the old creation and their addiction to false worship. He also redeems his Church so that the message of judgment becomes glad tidings to the earthly and heavenly Church."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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Section 10: The Fulfillment of Priestly Mediation

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 29:

"Not only does the Old Testament suggest that there is a parallel between the earthly high priest and a heavenly high priest who is the Angel of YHWH/kavod, but it predicts an eschatological fulfillment to priestly mediation. We are told in Numbers 25:13 that God has promised the Levites an eternal priesthood.  Nevertheless, the priesthood still is under the Sinaitic covenant and its curses. If so, then the whole of the priesthood’s failure and sinfulness would logically disqualify them to possess a perpetual priesthood as it did with the house of Eli in 1 Samuel. To maintain the promise of eternal priesthood, God must act to purify creation and the make the priesthood function in a final eschatological act. 
Such an implicit eschatological expectation becomes more explicit in the writings of the later prophets. In Malachi 3:3, we are told that God himself will come to purify the sons of Levi.  The text also tells us that God himself will come to his Temple to purify it in the form of the Angel of the Lord: "Behold, I send my messenger [or "My Angel"], and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant [or "Angel of the Covenant"] in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts" (Mal 3:1, emphasis added).  This connects with the expectation of the return of God to Zion, found in Isaiah 40 and Ezekiel 37-39.  In Zechariah 3, we are told that the Angel of YHWH's purification of the high priest (v. 8) prefigures God's eschatological action of redemption: "I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day"(v. 9)." 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Section 9: The Fulfillment of Prophetic Mediation

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 33:

"In subsequent Israelite history prophetic mediatorship was also unsuccessful. In spite of this, we find the promise of the eschatological fulfillment of prophetic mediatorship throughout the Old Testament. In the farewell address of Deuteronomy 18, Moses prophesies of the coming of a prophet like himself, in whose mouth God will place his words (Deut 18:18). The book of Deuteronomy and the so-called Deuteronomistic history emphasize, God is present in his Word and in his Name, and therefore the implication is that this prophet will mediate the divine presence. It also follows that this prophet must be greater than Moses and therefore must mediate the divine presence in an even greater manner than he did. If he were not greater, then Moses’ mediation would have sufficed. Taking this reasoning one step further, we must posit that the coming of this prophet represents the coming of God himself. If Moses spoke with God "face to face" (Exod 33:11) and a prophet is measured by his closeness to God and his ability to mediate the divine (Num 12:6-8), then the only possibility for a greater revelation of God would be the coming of God himself. 
Isaiah understands this coming of a prophet like Moses to be the coming of the Servant of YHWH, who is himself YHWH. We are first informed that the Lord himself is personally returning to Zion (Isa 40), thereby reversing the state of exile. This returning “glory” will be seen by “all flesh” (40:5). This returning presence is clearly identical with the Servant of the Lord. He is God's luminous glory in that he is a "light to the nations"(49:6). This description clearly parallels the universal manifestation of the kavod in 40:5. Furthermore he is described as the "arm of the Lord"(53:1, 63:12). He is also the "Angel of the presence" sent to save (63:9). 
If Isaiah describes a new exodus, then there must logically also be a new Moses and a new Passover lamb. Just as Moses sprinkled Israel with the blood of the covenant (Exod. 24:8), so the Servant will "sprinkle many nations" (Isa 52:15) and will not only establish a covenant, but himself will be a "covenant for the people" (42:6). In light of the fact that the redeeming promise of grace ends the exile which has occurred because of sin, this covenant can be none other than the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah which eliminates sin. God tells the prophet that the former covenant that he made with Israel after leading them out of Egypt was nonfunctional because of the unbelief and disobedience of the nation (Jer 31:31-2). Echoing Moses' own prediction in Deuteronomy 30:6, ("And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."), Jeremiah states that YHWH will make a new covenant (v. 31): “I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (31:33) and "[f]or I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (v. 34). Moses tried to place the law within the Israelites’ hearts (Deut 6:6), but he could only demand and coerce them into imprinting it on themselves in an outward way (6:8-9). In the same manner, Moses established sin-offerings (Lev 4:1-5:13, 6:24-30, 8:14-17, 16:3-22) and guilt offerings (Lev 5:14-6:7, 7:1-6) which could not ultimately cleanse the conscience (Heb. 10:4). The result of this unatoned for sin would be exile, as Moses himself predicts in Deuteronomy 27-32. The word and works of the Servant will accomplish the end of exile, and therefore finally eliminate sin. 
Moreover, the nineteenth century Lutheran Old Testament scholar Ernst Hengstenberg, points out that the Servant does not merely mediate the covenant like Moses, but in fact is the covenant himself. He can do this because he is the one who has become the new Passover lamb and true sin offering (Isa 53:5, v. 7,10). He will for the sake of his people be "distressed" with their “distress” (63:9) (or possibly one could translate this as “afflicted” with their “affliction”). The Servant proclaims this universal Jubilee (Isa 61:2), based on the new covenant's forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:34) rooted in his own person and work. Moses attempted to redeem Israel by doing this (Exod 32:31-2), but was unable."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Section 9: Christ, Solomon, and Wisdom

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 80:

"Solomon not only embodies divine rule over all creation, but also divine creative activity. Much like Moses embodied the divine kavod when he spoke forth the Tabernacle in seven divinely given speeches, so too Solomon is the builder of the Temple, the cosmic microcosm. What is even more remarkable about this is how it creates a parallel between Solomon as the embodiment of divine wisdom (1 Kgs 3:7-13) and God's hypostatized Wisdom as it is described in Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8 describes holy Wisdom as an offspring of the deity (Prov 8:22-9). Solomon/Israelite king is described as God's Son (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7) and as one that has also been begotten of God (Ps 2:7).  Solomon is the builder of the Temple (1 Kgs 6-8), the cosmic microcosm. God's hypostatized Wisdom is described as a "craftsman at his [God’s] side" (Prov 8:30) in creation. Therefore, as the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic testament, it is not for arbitrary reasons that the Apostle Paul identifies Christ as the hypostatized Wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:29; Col 1:16). It was therefore fitting that Christ was a carpenter (Mark 6:3) in that both Solomon and holy Wisdom are builders, and the Messiah is promised as one who will build God's house (2 Sam 7:13). Just as Christ in his pre-incarnate state as God's hypostatized Wisdom brought about creation, so he brings forth new creation through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection (2 Cor 5:17). Solomon, as a type of Christ prefigures his coming Incarnation and divine creativity as the wise builder of the cosmic microcosm." 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Section 8: Law and Gospel in the History of the Old Testament

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 12-13:

"These descriptions of Israel’s early history suggest several things. First, the narrative strongly implies that the Tabernacle and the later Temple are in a sense the restoration of Eden, wherein humans dwelled directly in God’s gracious presence. In the same manner the promises to the patriarchs and the fecundity of creation are portrayed as a restoration of the true humanity. Secondly, these accounts imply that through entering into a covenant with the patriarchs, YHWH has pledged his own being to Israel as a pledge of his faithfulness. Indeed, to give an unconditional promise means always to give the self, because a promiser is logically tied to the enactment and fulfillment of the promise. The presence and the activity of the divine self now must conform to the situation of the one whom the promise was made. 
If then Edenic harmony and its restoration in the election of Israel means the renewal of creation and the self-donating presence of YHWH, then sin and its consequence of exile mean the very opposite of these goods. YHWH speaks to the Israelites through Moses and tells them that “if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant . . . I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it” (Lev 26:15-6). Indeed, “I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins.” In the exile “I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze” (26:18-9). The curses that we discover in Leviticus also suggest that there will be a loss of Israel’s restored dominion in the land: “I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you” (26:17). These curses are also well attested by the threats of the later prophets. Ezekiel, who was a priest, also places an emphasis on the loss of the divine presence. According to Ezekiel 10, the prophet fully realized the completeness of the judgment of the exile only when he had a vision of the divine glory leaving the Temple (Ezek. 10:18). 
Nevertheless, in spite of the situation of exile and human sin, YHWH promises his continuing faithfulness to Israel. After the passages threatening judgment, we find passages in same texts the assuring Israel of God’s continuing faithfulness to his promises made to the patriarchs. In spite of human sin, there would be eschatological renewal and the return from exile: “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham” (Lev 26:42). St. Paul observes in Galatians 3:13-25, the Mosaic record demonstrates that the Abrahamic covenant of grace (or more properly, his "testament," as Paul puts it) precedes and in fact stands as separate from the Sinaitic covenant of law. In contrast to the Abrahamic testament of unilateral promise and blessings, the Sinaitic covenant entails a long list of demands and curses. The reception of the two covenants is different as well. Von Rad notes that Abraham is passive and asleep as he receives the unilateral covenant of grace (Gen 15). By contrast, we are told that the Israelites were called upon to actively receive and to perform the works of the Sinaitic covenant: “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exod 24:3). 
Therefore, YHWH’s dealing with Israel takes on a paradoxically dual character. On the one hand, God has pledged himself to Israel and will fulfill his promises to it in spite of every obstacle. On the other hand, the covenant of Sinai is equally valid and demands on the part of Israel a real heart-felt obedience to God’s commandments. Both words from God are valid and therefore the unconditional nature of the former continuously comes into conflict with the conditional nature of the latter throughout the history of salvation. In the book of Hosea, the prophet enacts the sign of this paradoxical situation by marrying a prostitute (Hos 1, 3). As a sign of Israel’s state of affairs, Hosea marriage presupposes the validity of the covenant of the law, as well as God’s unilateral and unconditional faithfulness to Israel. Israel is rightly imputed with sin for having broken the law by prostituting itself to the nations, but YHWH must remain true to his promise and remains “married” to Israel in spite of its apostasy."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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Section 8: Israel's Recapitulation of Adam and Eve

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 14-15:

"Moreover, Israel did not merely view exile and return as being a quirk of their particular national history, but the pattern of cosmic and human existence. The account of Genesis 2 begins with the creation of human beings (Gen 2:15-5) and their subsequent placement in the Garden of Eden. Although we will later return to the wider significance of Eden for the Israelite cult, here it is sufficient to say that Eden is described as a place where humanity works the soil (Gen 2:15) and where the fertility of the earth is guaranteed. Furthermore, YHWH is directly present to the first humans and guarantees his favor to them by his glorious presence (Gen 3:8). Humanity sins by disobeying the divine command and by listening to the serpent, a false mediator of God’s will (“Did God actually say . . .?”Gen. 3:10). This leads to the exile of Adam and Eve from the garden, which brings with it their removal from God’s gracious presence and the guarantee of the fertility of the soil (“. . . cursed is the ground because of you . . .” Gen 3:17). They are also denied immortality (Gen 3:19). As many interpreters have recognized, such a narrative is echoed in Israel’s own story. G. K. Beale correctly observes the parallels between Adamic humanity and Israel in Genesis 2-3: “Israel, as representative of God’s true humanity, also separated themselves from the divine presence and failed to carry the commission . . . Israel failed even as had Adam. And like Adam, Israel was also cast out of the ‘garden land’ into exile.” 
If Genesis’ primal history suggests that humanity exists in a state of universal exile, the Pentateuchal narrative of the election of the patriarchs suggests that Israel itself is the beginning of the restoration of the Adamic humanity. In describing the structure of the Genesis narrative, N. T. Wright observes that: 

Thus, at major turning-points in the story [the Pentateuchal narrative] Abraham’s call, his circumcision, the offering of Isaac, the transition from Abraham to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob, and the sojourn in Egypt- the narrative quietly insists that the Abraham and his progeny inherit the role of Adam and Eve.

Throughout Genesis, YHWH’s promise to the patriarchs, (realized in the exodus and the conquest), is that he will multiply their descendants and give them dominion in the land of Canaan. As Wright goes on to demonstrate, this status of Israel as the restoration of Adam and Eve comes across most strongly throughout the story because the dual promise of dominion in the land and of many descendants directly parallels the promise made to the first man and woman at the end of the account of creation in Genesis 1: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28). 
The Pentateuchal narrative also reinforces the identification of Israel as the restoration of Adamic humanity in a number of other ways. The land that YHWH promises Israel, is in some measure represented as a restoration of the pre-lapsarian blessing on the soil: " And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD . . ." (Gen 13:10, emphasis added). For Israel, the restoration of the presence of God enjoyed before the Fall also occurs. We are told that YHWH’s glory (kavod) traveled with Israel during the entire period of the exodus under the form of a cloud (Exod 40:36-8). When the Tabernacle’s construction was completed, a thick cloud filled the camp and the glory of YHWH descended into the Tabernacle (Exod 40:34-5)."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Section 7: The Central Concept of Old Testament Theology

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 11-12:

"In order to understand Christ and his coming, we must first understand the history of salvation in the Old Testament which his advent presupposes. In twentieth century, there were a number of attempts to posit a central theme or concept of Old Testament. This has tended to take the form of the identification of an abstract concept or idea as a central theme.  Notably, this identification of the organizing principle of the Old Testament with an abstract concept has been the method of both Walther Eichrodt and Gerhard von Rad. In Eichrodt’s case, this was the “Covenant,” whereas for von Rad it was the significantly the more fluid, yet equally problematic concept of “Recitation."  
Instead of an abstract concept, we will choose a historical pattern. The pattern that we will identify as residing at the very heart of the history of salvation in the Old Testament is the theme "exile and return." This theme is not an arbitrary decision of one historical pattern among many, but rather stands as the very contours of the history of salvation as it is presented to us in the Scriptures. The foundational event in Israel’s story as it is recounted in both the historical and prophetic writings are in fact the redemption from Egypt and the settlement of Palestine. In the same way also, the preaching of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the pre-exilic prophets and the later experiences of the Babylonian exile certainly must also be viewed as reinforcing this historical and theological pattern of existence upon Israel’s psyche. As we will observe, such a pattern prefigures the narrative of the Christ's death and resurrection. From the perspective of confessional Lutheran theology this way of understanding the Old Testament is particularly important in light of the fact that both exile and return are the temporal manifestations of God's law and grace."

Monday, April 8, 2013

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Section 6: Modern Biblical Scholarship and Epicureanism

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 6:

"Not interpreting Scripture in light of Christ ultimately leads to the application of an alien framework and context. It represents merely the imposition of a different framework on Scripture, and not a neutral and scientific interpretation of Scripture.
In point of fact, this is precisely what we are proposing that modern biblical scholars have done and continue to do. They impose an alien framework on Scripture and thereby distort individual texts by interpreting them within that framework. One steeped in the history of modern biblical scholarship is bound to find this unsurprising in light of the fact that this tradition of interpretation begins with Baruch Spinoza and the revival of Epicurean thought in the early modern period. Part of Epicureanism was the denial of divine design within the world (Epicurus followed the atomism of Democritus) and the rejection of supernatural revelation (the gods, claimed Epicurus do not interact with the world). 
For this reason, Scripture is seen as the patchwork of the different writings of those involved in "priestcraft" (later Rationalists frequently called it) cut and pasted together and edited by one great imposter as the final redactor. Since different writing styles can obvious be used by the same author and because none of the intermediate or ur-documents that supposedly made up whole biblical books have ever been found, the supposition of modern liberal biblical scholars that the Bible was produced in this way is almost entirely based on discerning the power-play present in the rhetorical violence of the various invented authors of the theoretical documents (Q, JEDP, etc.). By reading the Bible this way, liberal critics of the Bible seek to free themselves from the heteronomous claims of these ancient authors and assert their autonomy against the text. This kind of freedom is of course (as we shall see later) is not real freedom. It is a defensive action of a creature bent by sin. Such phony autonomy seeks a defense against the accusation of the law present in the supposedly heteronomous claims of the text. The only freedom that can be real freedom is in Christ. By accepting that the Bible is truthful and centers on Christ, believers gain the true freedom that modern liberal biblical scholar seeks through the destruction of biblical authority. 
Epicureanism also automatically rules out the supernatural. This again is merely an a prior hermeneutical decision, and not something necessitated by the material itself. Rather than offer any hard evidence that the Hebrew prophets did not predict Jesus, they merely interpret the Scriptures within a framework that does not view reality as centering on the Christological. Indeed, not only is predictive prophecy ruled out of court, but there can be no divinely designed melody of salvation history. Any subtle connection between one event in Scripture and another must be manufactured afterwards out of thin air. Any fulfillment of predictive prophecy must have been redacted after the event to fit the prophecy. In reading modern biblical scholarship what one is amazed by time and again is how commentators get away with so much conjecture without offering a slightest bit of evidence. They also frequently present weak evidence or dismiss evidence devastating to their position. Since their audience has been acculturated into the Epicurean assumptions about divine agency, they can simply build conjecture on conjecture. Those who challenge such practices (within and outside the academic world) are dismissed as "Fundamentalists" who worship a "Paper Pope." All this suggests that many exegetes are engaged in a covert theological agenda and not in neutral historical investigation as they attempt claim. As was suggested at the beginning of this section, the theology they propose is one that needs Scripture to be errant in order to bolster their religion of allegory (so that they might maintain their precious bourgeois autonomy against the peril of divine providence and miracle) and moralizing (so that in their autonomy they might continue their project of self-justification)."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Section 5: The Proper Framework of Scripture

The Self-Donation of God: pg. 5-6:

"Modern liberal biblical scholars have failed to understand this [the unity of Scripture in Christ] and will doubtless protest that this does violence to the original intention of the authors. Of course, extreme versions of Christian exegesis (beginning with Origen and moving on into the Middle Ages) did do violence to the original meaning of the text by burying it under imaginative and often times fanciful Christian allegory.  The problem with all this was not that it attempted to read the Bible as a book about Jesus, but that it understood Jesus incorrectly. Allegorical reading tries to strip away the external meaning to find the Spirit hidden within. It gives us a Docetic Bible, in the same way that Protestant Liberalism gives us a Nestorian Bible. In this framework, the Bible effectively becomes a mere stepping stone to God hidden in his majesty, rather than God hidden in concrete written Word of the Scripture.
The younger Luther recognized this and, beginning with his early commentaries on the Psalms (1513-15) moved away from allegorical exegesis, insisting instead on the primacy of the sensus literalis. Nevertheless, he still interpreted the Psalms as having their ultimate reference in Christ.  Holding these two aspects of the text of Scripture together, Luther grasped what Wolfhart Pannenberg has in our present situation emphasized, that any study of any historical event must occur within an overall framework. In a similar vein, Pannenberg has noted, events take on meaning in light of what they later give rise to.   For example, meaning of the French Revolution can be more acutely realized in light of Soviet and Chinese revolutions than can be recognized merely by studying France in the late eighteenth century.  N. T. Wright has similarly noted that a Roman citizen who heard about the resurrection of Jesus and was unfamiliar with the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures would doubtless have regarded him as being something like a Nero Redivivus.  Not interpreting Scripture in light of Christ ultimately leads to the application of an alien framework and context. It represents merely the imposition of a different framework on Scripture, and not a neutral and scientific interpretation of Scripture."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Section 4: The Literal Sense of Scripture

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 3-4:

"This means that we will expound the Scriptures according to the sensus literalis, that is, the literal sense. This is by no means identical with the "literalism" or perhaps even better, “letterism” as the Wittenberg Reformers were well aware. In his definition of the literal sense, Thomas Aquinas claimed that the literal sense was the meaning which God intended when he communicated the content of the Bible through the inspired authors. Doubtless, the Reformers would not have disagreed with such a sentiment. 
To show how the Reformers understood this intended meaning, we should turn to Luther's concept of scriptural clarity. Luther spoke about two kinds of clarity, external clarity and inner clarity. The external clarity, claimed Luther, was the grammatical and hence historically accessible meaning of the text. Such a meaning was open to anyone. The inner clarity was the meaning of the Bible as it centered on Christ. Since one cannot understand Christ or see the unity of the Bible in him without the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3) those who read the Scripture without faith fail to grasp its true meaning. Conversely, it is also true that one will not understand the Scriptures if one does not understand their mode of speaking and grammar, which are of course, historically conditioned. 
We can therefore see what the sensus literalis is for Luther in light of Christ. On the one hand God communicated himself in the concrete, contextual meaning of the text for the people to whom he addressed it through the prophets and apostles. At the same time, he intended that that meaning might also bear witness to Christ and to ultimately drive people to him. Therefore the literal sense is the coming together of the external and internal clarity of the Bible, just as when we refer to the person of Christ in the concrete we speak about the unity of his two natures. The literal sense is not, as modern interpreters have often thought, the meaning of the text as we might want to construe it based on the limited circumstances of certain historical authors. Rather, it is the harmony of the literal, grammatical meaning of the words of the Bible, together with the larger narrative of the history of salvation, culminating in and centering in Jesus Christ. This conception of the Bible is consummate with the Lutheran doctrine of the genus majestaticum, wherein the divine nature (in analogy to the internal clarity) is not something separate from the human nature (in analogy to the external clarity), but rather communicates the fullness of itself through external form of the human nature."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ordering Information

Here is where you order the book.

Section 3: The Presence of Christ in the Old Testament

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 3:

"Because God inspired the Scriptures to speak his eternal Word Jesus through human words, we should not in our exposition of Scripture shy away from the fact that the Old Testament is to be expounded Christologically. This means that typological readings of the Old Testament are therefore completely appropriate. God's authorial intention expressed through the Old Testament authors was always to point ahead to Jesus Christ. In keeping with this, we must also positively assert that the Old Testament is a book of predictive prophecy truly fulfilled in the manifestation of the Savior. Indeed, if Christ was not present the Old Testament, it would be difficult to say Marcion was not correct after all."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Section 2: The Truthfulness of Scripture

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 2:

"In light of the fact that Scripture centers on the promise of the gospel, we must insist on the reality of its truthful historicity. Although "literal religion" is frequently maligned as childish by our culture, the truth of the gospel presupposes the truthful historicity of the Bible. The "non-literal" and therefore more "mature" reading of the Bible insisted upon by much of contemporary culture in fact denigrates Christianity into an incipit religion of the law. It is infrequently acknowledged that Liberal Protestantism's legalism automatically follows from its anti-literalism. If the Bible only presents us with fanciful allegorical stories, then these narratives are capable of doing nothing other than giving us general moral truths. But, if Scripture centers on God's promises which culminate in Christ, it must be the case that God has literally been faithful to his promises in the actual history of the world. To suggest that God's activities of promise making and fulfillment in Scripture are mere allegories or legendary "sagas" makes such promises about some other realm and not about the real, literal, historical world. If the scriptural world is not the real, literal, historical world, then what freedom can it give to sinners living in the real historical world? This means that the gospel-centered message of the Bible is inherently tied up with the truth of its history in which God makes his trustworthiness known. 
Similarly, to admit that Scripture could be untruth in historical matters would also be to suggest that God's ultimate promise in the gospel could be an error. Even if we have considerable evidence of the central events of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, admitting that Scripture can error downgrades the certainty of these events to the level of "probable." Saying that the biblical documents can be untruthful is to say that their historical claims are to be believed with the same degrees of greater and lesser probability that all secular history possesses. Nevertheless, if we have full assurance of our salvation (as Scripture tells us we do, Heb 10:19-20), then the events which underline those promises cannot merely be probable, but absolutely be true. Indeed the nature of the faith does not allow Christians to confess that Christ "probably" died for their sins and "probably" rose for their justification. If that were the case, my assurance through Word and sacrament is also merely probable. But these things are not probable, but as Luther repeatedly states in the Catechisms, "most certainly true." They are most certainly true because God makes them known and guarantees them in his truthful written Word. Indeed, as Luther aptly states in the Large Catechism: "Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Section 1: The Nature of Holy Scripture

Daily I will attempt to give passages of the book for discussion.  This is the opening paragraph:

Chapter 1, pg. 1-2:
The Bible is the Word of God (Rom. 3:2; 2 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 1:11; 2 Pet 1:21, v. 25). It is absolutely truthful because of its inspiration by God the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the orthodox Lutheran dogmaticians rightly called the prophets and apostles "amanuenses of the Spirit." By proceeding in this manner, we stand firmly with the one of the foundational documents of the Lutheran Reformation, the Formula of Concord in its affirmation that “We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard to which all dogmas together with all teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic scriptures of the Old and New Testament.” Indeed, we can have no other starting point. Through God's election of Israel, he has chosen to make its life and traditions the medium of his law and promise. Just as Jesus Christ is the true and perfect Word of God from all eternity, so too he is present and active communicating himself infallibly to the people of God through the Word of the prophets and apostles. Indeed, the "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"(Rev 19:10).


This blog is devoted to my recently published book: The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary approach to Christ and His Benefits.  The goal of this blog is to create a public forum for learning about and discussing this book.  The book itself can be found here for purchase: